Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: minimalist gifts (page 1 of 2)

Birthday Time!

birthday presents

Remember when you were a kid and it was your birthday?

Did you wake up early to find a heaping pile of presents waiting for you next to your spot at the table?

Did it seem like an eternity before your parents woke up, cooked breakfast, got ready, and finally declared that it was time to open presents?

Do you remember each and every gift you ever got?

Did you always get what you wanted?

Did you cherish each item?

Did you play with them all year?
For a few days?
A few hours?
A minute?
Not at all?

Are your memories more about the anticipation, the excitement, and the fun of having and opening presents?

Do you remember the event more than what you got?

I do. There are very few presents that I actually remember receiving for my birthday. I remember the tricycle I got when I was three. I came around the corner to the kitchen and there it was.

I also remember the birthday before I moved to Rochester, MN for my first internship when I got a bunch of pots and pans, a strainer, and toilet paper (yes, toilet paper). I was thrilled!

But mostly I just remember getting presents, not having them. I remember the fun event; the experience.

My oldest daughter turns 6 years old today and she’s also got a pile of presents. She’ll be getting three sets of legos, a scooter, some clothes, and a few other random items from her loving extended family. Then she’ll have a party tomorrow and she’ll get more things. In five years, she probably won’t remember any of them.

What if next year I asked everyone to get her an experience gift? A ticket or photo or teaser of the experience could still be wrapped up, but instead of clogging our closets, the presents would clog her memory bank and photo albums.

Would she then remember our presents and not just the event?

What I Learned From One Year of Minimalism

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I didn’t quite make my monetary goal for the year, but I learned an incredible amount that was far more valuable. Here, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned by trying to reduce “stuff” and obligations this year.

#1 – Marie Kondo can help you get organized

If you really want to reduce clutter and get your life organized, the KonMari method, which Marie Kondo outlines in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, is, by far, the best method to use.

Her method is simple.

  1. Discard “stuff” by considering things by category (clothing, books, papers, etc), NOT by room. Ask yourself if each item sparks joy. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. You’re left with a household of things you truly love. I was surprised by how many things I used to have that I rather disliked.
  2. Organize completely. Don’t buy anything fancy, just organize using the storage room you have and maybe a couple of shoeboxes.

I have yet to make it to the “organize completely” phase, but I have been floored by how well the “discard” phase works. Of all of the methods I tried this year, I found Marie Kondo’s to be the most useful. Her book is a quick read and I highly recommend it.

#2 – Clean 10 minutes a day

Set a timer and see how much you can clean in just 10 minutes. Do it every day. This is the only way I can keep my house reasonably clean and it’s really painless. I can get a lot done in 10 minutes and when that timer goes off, I’m done. No guilt for anything left out, I can get that tomorrow because I know I’ll have another 10-minute opportunity then. Some days I get so much done that I’m motivated to continue – not because I have to – but because I want to. This habit gives me a fresh start to every day and it’s really easy.

#3 – Wait 30 days before you buy something

I’m not talking about cereal or deodorant. Go ahead and buy those when you need them. However, for items that you’ll use over and over again (that will persist long after you purchase them) give yourself a chance to think twice about them. The 30-day rule lets you consider other options or do some research. It also shows you how much you want an item. If you can’t stop thinking about it for 30 days, then it’ll probably be something you enjoy for a long time, so buy it.

#4 – Increase automatic savings when you get a promotion

If you get a 3% raise and you’re already sending 8% of your paycheck to your 401(k), increase the amount you save to 9-11% right away when you get a raise. You’ll still feel like you got a raise (unless you’re very disciplined and save the entire thing – kudos to you), but you’ll also painlessly increase your savings, which could mean an extra six figures or more when you retire.

#5 – Experience gifts are awesome

It turns out that wine, chocolate, trips, and my personal favorite, massages, have become my favorite things to give and receive. Experience gifts are consumable; things that people use up, so they don’t stay around the house. They make the best presents because they build memories instead of a stockpile of “stuff”. The Minimalist Mom has a great list of 90 clutter-free gifts for any occasion.

#6 – Don’t throw away anything that doesn’t belong to you

Even kids notice when something is missing. If anyone catches you in the act of discarding something that’s not yours, the hit to his or her trust is massive. It’s not worth it and eventually #7 happens.

#7 – Your family will start de-owning stuff on their own

I think my husband jumped on board shortly after I’d cleared off my side of the dresser for the first time since we bought it. It looked like the border between Haiti & the Dominican Republic.

Haiti & The Dominican Republic

Our dresser looked like this…only in our case the bare side was the best. Photo Credit: National Geographic

Our closet also became easier to use. Eventually I noticed that he’d gone through his massive T-shirt collection and had thrown a bunch away. He didn’t tell me he did it, but he did. Finally, we sat down and considered the family DVD collection together.

When you first start to de-own, it can be really hard to do it alone, knowing that the dent you’re making is only a fraction of the total family “stuff”. We’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ve noticed my family jumping on board, slowly but surely. Nathan has even mentioned (with a hint of gratitude that he may never admit to) how much cleaner certain rooms are now.

#8 – Time is your most precious resource

Seriously. Assuming you have basic necessities covered, nothing else matters (well, except your health). My new goal is focused on carving out more time for the things that matter (including health) because time debt is no longer something I’m willing to live with.

#9 – Shopping for groceries online is the best lifehack ever

I save 1-1.5 hours each week by shopping for groceries online and then picking them up at the store. I also save loads of money because I can easily see my total and kick things out of my cart. There are just so many very cool ways that shopping for groceries online makes my life easier. The link above to my online grocery-shopping manifesto is worth checking out if you’d like to try it. I lay out all the pros and cons.

#10 – Minimalism ruins the fun of shopping

I can’t just make an impulse purchase anymore. For example, if I’m shopping for clothes, I can’t just buy the first shirt I like. No, now there’s a little voice inside my head asking annoying questions like, “Is this well-made?” “Is this versatile?” “Does it look amazing on me?” It’s a great voice, but sometimes I wish I hadn’t swallowed the red pill and changed my life forever.

#11 – It is impossible to get kids to get rid of stuff

Many will tell you they’ve succeeded in getting their kids to give away their toys. I’ll believe it when I figure out a way that works with my kids.

#12 – One extracurricular activity per week per family member is more than enough

This rule helps us all minimize the craziness that comes with too many obligations. It keeps us (the parents) from turning into a shuttle service and it helps us all prioritize what activities we really want to be involved in. I’ve also found that constricting activities to weekdays is helpful. That leaves our weekends freed up to explore and go on Family Adventure Days. Alison has soccer, Maddie is in gymnastics, and I stay late at work one night a week for yoga. Perhaps this only works because our kids are so young, but the rule works for us right now.

#13 – Minimalism is a journey

At first, I naively thought I could organize my entire life and then sit back and reap the rewards. Then the junk mail showed up and our kids had birthdays and received a bunch of presents. Freeing yourself from your stuff only works as well as your system for ensuring new stuff doesn’t catch you offhand. Figure out how you’ll defend yourself before you get started and you’ll have an easier time sticking to your wonderful new excess-free world.

One Year of Minimalism

I find it funny that my list naturally came out to an “unlucky” 13 items because I feel so lucky to have stumbled upon this project for the last year. It’s changed how I think about the world and how I make decisions daily. I am, without a doubt, living a life closer to my dream life. I am excited to continue it with a new goal and I’m glad that you’ve been reading.

Share this post if you know someone who could benefit from it!

90 Clutter Free Gifts from the Minimalist Mom

This list of 90 clutter free gifts, written by Rachel Jonat (the Minimalist Mom) was sitting in my inbox today and I LOVE it. It is now bookmarked on my computer. The great thing about it is that these aren’t just ideas for the minimalists in your life, these are great ideas for anyone.  From wine to movie tickets to an Amazon gift card you can use these for any occasion.  Check it out!

Black Friday Online (Quick Tip)

If I had to choose one cultural aspect of America that shows just how backwards we’ve become, it might just be Black Friday. Luckily, many (dare I say the majority?) of us don’t ever set foot in a store on Black Friday.  Many people simply choose to opt out of Black Friday and, sometimes, material gifts altogether. Our family is greatly cutting back on material gifts this year, but the kids will still get something they need and/or love.

Black Friday Online

Why buy presents when boxes and gift wrap are usually the biggest holiday hits?

When Nathan and I spent the winters in Medora, ND while he worked at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we were 1.5 hours away from the nearest Target.  With temperatures plunging well under 0 degrees and roads covered in ice and snow, I was forced to find a new way to shop for Christmas presents that didn’t involved physically slogging through Christmas specials at the store.

It turns out that you can get free shipping and many of the same deals ONLINE on Black Friday (and throughout the holiday season) that you get in the stores. Plus, you get to sit around in your pajamas drinking hot chocolate and enjoying turkey leftovers.

I shop ahead of Black Friday and jot down the prices so I have a price baseline and don’t get distracted by the store’s specials online. I find that for specific items, some of them get cheaper on Black Friday – probably fewer than half.

Of course, the best deal is opting out and finding something truly meaningful to get your family, but if you must get a traditional present, I recommend skipping the stores and thoughtfully choosing a gift online!

Rational Minimalism

There are many ways to be a minimalist, but I subscribe to the flavor that Joshua Becker described in a post on his blog, Becoming Minimalist. He says,

Some people I speak with get nervous when they hear the term minimalist. For them, it conjures up images of destitution, barren walls, and empty cupboards. Rightly so, they decide that is no way to enjoy life. Believe me, I agree—that is no way to enjoy life.

Maybe that is why I use the term rational minimalist and find it resonates so well. If you walked into my home today, you would not immediately deduce that a minimalist lives here.

That’s really my mission. I’m not going to get rid of all of my furniture, dishes, or our kids’ toys. I’m not pulling all of our photos from our favorite hikes off the walls. I’m intentionally keeping what’s most important to me and clearing out the rest.

My journey toward rational minimalism has led me to realize some important things in just over one month and it’s been fun. Does it resonate with you?

Join me!

Rational Minimalism: Decor

One painting we won’t be removing: Heavens Peak (Highline Trail, Glacier National Park)

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